Australian Open: Nervous Novak Djokovic beats Jo-Wilfred Tsonga

Updated: Jan 18, 2019, 15:15 IST | AFP

World No. 1 Djokovic admits to nerves after beating sharp French rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga while advancing to third round

Australian Open: Nervous Novak Djokovic beats Jo-Wilfred Tsonga
Novak Djokovic returns to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their second round match of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said he could feel the tension before overcoming his great rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 at the Australian Open yesterday in a repeat of their 2008 Melbourne final. The top seed vanquished the Frenchman, who he described as, "one of my greatest rivals", for the 17th time in 23 tour meetings stretching back 11 years and advances to face Canada's 25th seed Denis Shapovalov in the third round.

Repeat of 2008 Melbourne final
Djokovic, 31, won the first of his 14 Grand Slams in that final against Tsonga over a decade ago and he said the memories came flooding back as the pair walked back out on Rod Laver Arena. "You could feel the tension on court at the beginning. We felt a lot of emotion," said Djokovic as both players took a trip down memory lane.

He said the tension was because he was, "playing on the centrestage against Jo, who I consider one of the greatest rivals that I had throughout my life, my career. "In the first Grand Slam final I had, I played against him. We played many thrilling matches, Olympic Games, all over the world, every possible surface."

That 2008 Australian Open final remains World No. 177 Tsonga's sole Grand Slam final. He is on the comeback trail after missing seven months of the 2018 season following left knee surgery that saw his ranking plummet outside the top 200. Back in 2008 Djokovic had won in four sets and despite the easier-looking scoreline the Serb said Tsonga remained a hard opponent.

'Tough to play Jo'
"It's always tough to play Jo. Because of his injuries, he dropped his ranking, but the ranking is definitely not showing the right picture of his quality," said Djokovic. "I'm glad to see him playing. I hope that he can get back where he deserves: at the top of the tennis game. "Yeah, I mean, knowing the history of what I had with him, I guess that's what brought even more I guess weight on this encounter tonight. I did feel a bit more nervy than I usually do. But that made me focus even more, I guess."

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